The man’s name was Elimilech meaning My God is king.
So for this post is going to read way more into the text than I would normally go and certainly in a direction that the writer doesn’t intents for me to go. I think there is enough blank space in the story for me to let my heart go there before I move onto the other characters in the story. So little has been spoken about Elimilech that I am going to use this as a blank canvas and allow the little to create space for God to speak to me about my own canvas of life. I actually wonder if Elimilech had made other choices if the canvas of his life would have been more descriptive and colourful.
I actually am going to use a bit of poetic licence and suggest that maybe (just maybe) Elimilech was on course with the plan God had for his life when he left Bethlehem. Sure it ended in death and misery for him and his boys but what if that was the plan and God was orchestrating the details of the future kings beyond their time?
What if Moab and a Moabitess was all part of the plan?
What if all that grief and sadness were a result of obedience not disobedience?
What if this was meant to be part of their story…what if Elimilech had heard from God..to move to Moab?
What if Elimilech and his sons had died in Bethlehem?
Would this story have ended up in the Bible? what if things were so bad in Bethlehem that God lead him to go to Moab?
Didn’t the angel of The Lord tell Joseph and Mary to take JESUS to Egypt? Does it make Egypt a bad place because they moved there…they were safe there? Elimilech didn’t know his choices would lead to death but maybe he would have died in Bethlehem. We don’t know and although the story suggests that the outcomes ultimately were not what you you want for any mother, I do want to consider that sometimes where God leads us may be a place that is hard disguised in good and prosperous, the same way grace can be disguised in difficult and empty places. Why is the call of God always described as easy? When the Israelites returned to the promised land, they had to face battles, a wars, and hardship to regain the land and redeem it back for their people.
I am sitting in this thought to simply challenge my own beliefs. What if where I go is where God wants me and the outcome is not so pretty. When grief hits, and loss how often do we feel like Naomi…that God has caused the grief and bitterness when really it our human reality to experience the outcome of suffering and pain as children of this planet. What if the man whose name means MY GOD IS KING was not such a bad fellow or faith starved soul as he is most often portrayed. I know we know the end from the beginning and the focus of the story is about the return to Bethlehem but what if God was orchestrating the story of a king…
We know he lead his family on a journey to new place and we know that his life prematurely ended in death…but what if all along, he had followed the leading of God and that it was part of God’s intentions for this family in order to bring Ruth back. What if God, all along wanted Ruth to be a part of his divine plan. The gospel is all about God making room for others in his story for opening his arms in grace outside the lines of expectation. The story of Ruth show us what he intended for the people outside of the chosen people ..the people like me, grafted into the story.
What if Elimilech was simply trying to make a change, do something outside the box? what if he was fed up with the culture he was living in and fed up with how things were going in his own town and felt that maybe he should give his family different? Isn’t that what we are taught in sermons these days…to be brave, to step out in faith???